January 11th-20th, 2002
Stormy weather last night with thunder, lightning and heavy downpours. Reports later indicated flooding in Napier, Wellington and other places. Napier got 53mm and flooded many downtown shops and also the museum. Fortunately, no flooding along my route. It was mostly flat today starting out with orchards near Hastings.
I followed the railroad tracks out of town, past the orchards. Quiet traffic to start with reasonable shoulders. Fields with sheep and cattle. After 8 km, a low range of hills came along the west side. At 28 km was Te Haute with pretty church pictured above left and Te Haute College. Originally founded as school for boys in 1853, it was integrated into the state system in 1975. Here was small store where I stopped for some breakfast.
At 42 km was Waipawa with small downtown area. It was drizzling now as I went through town. The rain mostly stopped when I came into Waipukurau at 49 km. This was largest town so far and had nice bakery.
After Waipukurau it got busier with more trucks. Stopped briefly at a rest area for the 40th parallel south. At 67 km was sign for Takapau along the back roads. Looked at the map and found a back route that would avoid main roads for almost 30 km. It followed the railroad tracks, so hopefully reasonably flat. Felt much nicer to be riding along the side roads. Saw several deer farms here. The deer would spot me and one by one raise their heads. Also many more sheep today.
As I rode along it kept getting hillier. In one or two places the road would descend to a creek and then climb up the other side. I took a slight turn at Ormondsville and then headed west again. Reached the main road again at 96 km and then southbound to Dannevirke.
Dannevirke was settled in 1872 by 13 Danish families and 6 Norwegian
families. They were recruited to come settle the area and also help build
roads. There is nice downtown with shops and also a nice historic gallery
filled with artifacts and photos from early 1900s.
Rain day today. Heavy storm came through about 4 am with lots of rain. Looked like it was subsiding some, so slept in an little and made an assessment at 7am. The rain had tapered to just slight sprinkles, so left Dannevirke and was on the road.
Streams along the way were full of muddy brown rushing water. Behind me
the road had been closed between Waipawa and Waipukurau due to flooding. Some of
the pastures were also flooded as can be seen by sheep standing on the island above left. After 8
km from Dannevirke, rain started again a bit heavier. Got to Woodville at
28 km and it was raining harder. Stopped in at the cafe for nice breakfast
and looked at town. I've got a few days to get to Wellington and this
seemed like a reasonable spot to take a short day and let the rain blow through.
I walked around town and also met a Dutch cyclist who was heading the other
Another wet drizzly day. There has been a low pressure system parked over New Zealand, so forecasts going forward also call for more rain. North of Wellington the New Zealand Open golf tournament is being held and rain has kept down the crowds. This is unfortunate as organizers needed 20,000 people per day (at NZ$170/head) to recoup costs including a NZ$5 million appearance fee paid to Tiger Woods. They'll end up loosing money on this tournament.
A very quiet Sunday morning ride as I left Woodville. There are two routes from Woodville to Wellington. I believe I'm on the less crowded one. It was dry for first 10 km, but off and on drizzle after that. For New Zealand it was flat with just a few gradual hills and descents. This region is named Wairarapa and is found between Taurua mountains to the west and Pacific Ocean to the east. At 15 km was Pahiatua with playground shown above left and a very quiet divided main street. The streams had diminished some since yesterday. At several places under the road was an underpass to allow cows to be taken across the road.
Still quiet riding through Eketahuna at 41 km. I was looking for a place for breakfast, but didn't see much of interest. A few km further was a one kilometer section of gravel road. From here the road started to slowly climb, as it went past the Mount Bruce National Wildlife Center that takes care of endangered birds. I stopped in, but decided to continue after deciding not to pay NZ$8 to walk around in the wet drizzle spotting birds. The road still climbed a bit further from here, reaching 367m before dropping again as it went past Mount Bruce.
slowly picked up as I neared Masterton at 80 km. I took the side road
through the main street. Only some of the shops were open for a Sunday
morning. Stopped on far side of town for an early lunch before deciding to
continue. There were multiple motels out of town, but I kept going to
Carterton and stopped there. Carterton is known as the daffodil city and
has annual daffodil carnival in the Spring. There is a small main street
with an overabundance of antique shops.
Made it to Wellington today, and even beat the rain front that was forecast to sweep through from the north. It was actually quite nice as I rode through Carterton at 6 am.
I had been hearing about the Rimutaka Hill ever since I left Hastings, more than 200 km ago. I mostly took this as positive sign, that there weren't big enough hills to warrant notice before then. True to form, the day started with relatively flat riding through Greytown and then into Featherton. Greytown had multiple fruit stores and also many antique shops. Both had motels, though I hadn't been certain yesterday. At 22 km I reached Featherton and stopped briefly for breakfast items. How high is the top? I don't know...but it is about 6 km of climb. This didn't sound as bad as I'd heard before.
The climb started soon thereafter with a summit at 32 km. As climbs go, it was consistent and not as bad as ones like Clyde Mountain or even Weldborough Pass. There were about five passing lanes on the way up, but otherwise a narrow shoulder. At top was small cafe, a chance to get a drink and pet the cat. From here, a good descent and then some rolling terrain as I headed towards Upper Hutt. I passed the Rimutaka Incline, a well known hiking track (and I believe former railway).
Upper Hutt was busy town on other side of the river at 56 km. The road smoothed out and I was making good time, so kept going to Lower Hutt at 70 km. Stopped here for lunch and also to check on routes into Wellington. The bike shop person looked at me a little strange when I asked about routes and explained there really was only one road. I rode through urban areas and then back to that road (route #2) and away to Wellington.
is built on side of a hill and next to Wellington Harbor. I rode along
that bay and past the ferry terminal with ferries to Picton on the South
Island. From here into middle of the city and at the information center
where I booked a hotel right downtown. Had a little walk around though
I'll still have some time to explore further. I have found at least five
Indian restaurants in close proximity to the hotel, so can figure out what is
good to eat before going to India.
First day I took a bus tour (in pouring rain) to see some sights of town including botanic gardens, cable cars, Old St Paul, Mount Victoria and a short ride along the coast. In afternoon, I found the wonderful Te Papa (our home) Museum. Second morning I went for a walking tour of Wellington, but nobody showed up. Instead, I took a tour through parliament buildings and stopped by National Archives and National Library. Third day I walked around the wharfs and visited the Wellington Museum of City and Sea. On all the days I window shopped for India items and also stopped in at local internet cafe.
The Te Papa Museum is an excellent museum about New Zealand that opened in 1998. It has exhibits about aspects like geology, flora/fauna, treaty of Waitangi, courtship, immigration overall, design styles, Maori culture and others. Overall, many hands on displays and other fun stuff. For example, there was an earthquake house that shook to let people feel a magnitude 7 earthquake (not as severe as I thought, though it just kept going and going...). There was also an interesting display about Dutch immigrants to New Zealand. There were large Marae and war canoes. There was also a simulated bungee jump ride... Overall, one of the better large museums I've seen.
There are three large government buildings in a row: executive office building (at left), parliament house and the government library. The parliament is large stone building that was refurbished between 1992 and 1995. One of the retrofits was for earthquake protection where they floated the entire foundation on a set of metal/rubber disks so that the building is isolated from the ground. Quite interesting! New Zealand has one house of parliament (having abolished their upper house in 1950) and has been independent since 1907. The executive building is home for ministers and staff.
After seeing parliament, I went embassy spotting. Most of the embassies were low key affairs befitting a country of 3.8 million people. For example, one large office building had Canadian embassy on one floor and Norwegian on another. The US embassy had imposing gates and guard came out to ask me not to take a photo.
The Wellington Museum of City and Sea is in an old wharf building downtown. Three floors of exhibits related to Wellington harbor and early history. I was surprised to find that in 1901, Wellington already had 50,000 residents. Also amused to find an exhibit about Shackleton's cat. There were a few good films here including one describing a disaster in 1968 when a ferry, the Wahine, ran aground in a storm in Wellington harbor with loss of 51.
My India shopping list had a few different things: travelers checks, Imodium, toilet paper, a bicycle bell, batteries and maps. In return, I also mailed away things from New Zealand.
My plan is to cycle to the airport tomorrow morning for flight to Auckland
and then Singapore. After an overnight and most of a day in Singapore,
continue on to Chennai, India. Looking forward to this next part of the
The first of two travel days towards India. I've found it typically takes an extra hour to deal with acquiring boxes and packing a bicycle, but left even more time. I cycled along the coast with a nice "windy Wellington" tailwind pushing me along. It was quiet along the roads and a nice ride. Little houses perched on hills overlooking the harbor, some of them have their own cable cars.
At the airport, I encountered two instances of initial bureaucracy followed by extra friendly New Zealand hospitality. The first came in getting a bicycle box. Air New Zealand only had plastic bags, so I went to Quantas. My first request for a box was met with a flat, "we don't have boxes". I then remarked, "Air New Zealand sent me here since you often have them...", and surprise the counter person found boxes and put in extra efforts to get one.
The second instance came when it came time to weigh and pay for my baggage. After putting panniers in a duffel, I had three pieces and 50 kg (still after mailing things off). I was first told this would cost NZ$20.42/kg for everything over 30 kg... even more expensive than mailing via NZ Post. However, shortly the check in clerk found a clause listed as "sports equipment" and decided to take the bike for free. The more I fly internationally with bicycles, the more it seems like airlines have an arbitrary set of guidelines for bicycles with much discretion to the check in agents.
Otherwise an uneventful disassembly and flight to Auckland (1 hour), layover (3 hours) and flight to Singapore (10 hours) on a full 747. Our flight path took us over the NSW coast and then directly across Alice Springs across Australia out by Derby. I didn't see much of the Sydney fires, but could see Alice Springs quite clearly and also long rows of sand dunes of the Simpson Desert. The northwest near Broome was clouded over with lightening. Fun to recognize some of the same places again.
Arrival in Singapore was very smooth. I had previously contacted the transit hotel in the airport and so knew they were full. Instead, I picked up my baggage before making an early check in to my Chennai flight, then went to the "hotel counter" and booked a hotel in the city. An easy ~25 km shuttle ride to my hotel and I was asleep within two hours of landing. My bike box looks beat up, so hope all comes through ok.
10 km today, 26352 km cumulative.
Nice rest and adjustment to five hours of the 7.5 hours time difference. In the morning I decided to go for a short walk through part of Singapore. Had my second 100mg doxycycline malaria pill. They work by killing the parasite in the blood. I'll need them for the next ten weeks including four weeks after I return.
My hotel was on Orchard Street and seemed to have numerous large shopping malls, typically with six or more stories. The tropical air was already feeling humid, so tried walking mostly in the shade. Came to Singapore Museum of History. Singapore was established as a British trading base in 1819. Seems like it has a mix of different cultures including Chinese, Malaysian and Indian. Singapore was granted independence after the second world war. There was a brief period when Singapore was merged with Malaysia, but since 1965, it has been independent. The museum had collection of dioramas, portraits and also some smaller displays such as one about jade carving.
Found a large internet cafe and updated my email. Otherwise walked back via the shopping malls, checked out of the hotel and went back to the airport. Unfortunately, I couldn't pass through immigration into the main part of the airport until "channel b" opened about three hours before my flight left, so waited outside for a while.
When channel b opened, it was an alternate door that went to the side and very quickly right back to the normal immigration posts. Strange. While they didn't search me, my best guess is this alternate path allows men and women to be processed separately and searched as necessary. I suspect it is done for flights to certain Asian and middle east countries.
On the other side were many more shops and an activity billing itself as the worlds first airport game show. I wandered around and boarded the flight on time. Now for the last leg.
Two things I noticed. Despite the "law and order" reputation, folks in Singapore jaywalk at least as much as anywhere. Also, folks boarding the flight to India are amongst the best and most polite about staying in queue.
0 km today, 26352 km cumulative.
Welcome to India! Two years ago, I remember the biggest shock being right as I left the airport to find myself in a strange land with crowds of people, so this time I was prepared for that.
My seat was way in back of the 747, so I waited 30 minutes in queues to get through immigration and arrival security (hand luggage screened on arrival). Drivers from Hotel Mars had a hand-written sign with my name on it, and the bike box looked no more beat up than in Singapore. So far, not too bad. A quick shuttle bus ride to the hotel outbound from the airport. It was dark, but street scenes seemed similar to what I'd seen before.
Hotel porter, "Das" helped carry bags inside and then waited for a tip. This and the toilet with bucket of water was my "welcome to India" moment for this trip. For a left handed person, it will take some practice.
The combination of jet lag and excitement meant I didn't get much sleep and was up early putting together the bike. All seems to be ok. In the morning I made arrangements to have my bicycle box stored at the hotel. I also took a quick taxi ride to Chennai to drop off my computer gear with parents of a friend from work (thanks Tara!). Now back and by 10 am I was ready to roll...
City cycling in India is very exciting! There is an overload of stimulus: sounds of everything honking/tooting, lots of motion and sights, an amazing variety of vehicles, loose interpretations of "safe to pass" and hazards ranging from oxen to potholes. Despite all this, it is surprising how well it all flows.
For the first 25 km, I was in midst of this sensory overload as I first rode past the airport (3 km) and then to a road junction with Ghandi statue (10 km) and then towards the coast. I didn't get a single photo, but lots of images are in my mind. For example, in one part in middle of traffic they were busy painting stripes between two lanes, though I'm not certain they will help. Another example was passing construction of an elevated highway with large amounts of manual labor. It rained a little and I was surprised how many motorcycles and bicycles pulled over since it was a light warm rain.
After 25 km or so, the chaos subsided and riding was more pleasant. There was a nice smooth, flat road already marked to become a toll road and mostly with a 1m shoulder. Still a few small villages, but also more beach side resorts. Also several theme parks with seals, water slides, etc. All in all, made good progress and was in Mamallapuram a little past 1 pm. Spoiled myself with a nice hotel with air conditioned room, hot water and toilet paper. All this for Rs 600 + 20% luxury tax.
Mamallapuram is a pretty beach town with a number of interesting sights: rock carvings on sides of the hills, a beautiful shore temple, stone carvers and lots of little shops. These carvings are quite spectacular and quite large. All around town one can hear the stone carvers at work. There are a good number of tourists, both Indian and foreign and a few things like shore temple have different tariffs.
I walked around town. In the evening I watched two different performances from the Mamallapuram Dance Festival. The festival is held for four weeks starting in early January. What I saw was very well done.
Nice first day riding India, though a bit overwhelming with lots of stimulus and still some jet lag.
59 km today, 26411 km cumulative.
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